WARM WELCOME?Vice President Chen Chien-jen said that protesters should avoid the cold by sending representatives to Sunday’s meeting to discuss issues
By Stacy Hsu / Staff reporter
Members of a coalition of civic groups and civil-servant unions protest government plans for pension reform in front of the Legislative Yuan in Taipei yesterday. Many of the protesters are on a hunger strike.
Vice President Chen Chien-jen (陳建仁) yesterday unveiled details of the government’s draft pension reform plan, urging opponents to send representatives to a national affairs conference scheduled for Sunday.
Speaking at an afternoon news conference at the Presidential Office, Chen said the draft was drawn up after 20 committee meetings, four regional forums and efforts to solicit opinions from all sectors of society.
Chen said the draft plan aims to ensure that the nation’s various pension funds can be sustained for at least another generation, delaying estimations for bankruptcy of the Labor Insurance Fund by nine years to 2036, the public-school teachers’ pension fund by 12 years to 2043 and the Public Service Pension Fund by 14 years to 2044.
“Our goal is to make sure that pension funds remain accessible generation after generation and be able to support insured people into their old age,” Chen said.
Laying out several key elements of the proposed reforms, Chen said the controversy-dogged 18 percent preferential savings rate for retired public-sector employees taking monthly retirement payments would be lowered to 0 percent in three stages over six years.
The saving rate is to be reduced every two years, falling to 9 percent, 6 percent and then 3 percent. It is to be 0 percent from the seventh year on.
For those who take their pension as a lump sum, there are two proposed systems: Either the 9-6-3-0 process to reduce the interest rate as with monthly payments, or a separate plan of 12 percent for the first two years, 10 percent in years three and four, 8 percent in years five and six and 6 percent from year seven on.
However, public servants whose monthly pension is below a specified floor — to be either NT$25,000 or NT$32,160 (US$791 or US$1,017) — are to retain the 18 percent preferential rate.
Chen said that the government intends to cut the income replacement rate for public servants to “75 percent of two times a civil servant’s basic salary” and lower the rate by 1 percentage point each year until it is 60 percent of two times the basic salary.
Under current pension plans, government employees receive pensions of up to 95 percent of their pre-retirement income, which is straining national coffers.
To make pension funds more sustainable, the average used to determine payments is to be based on a longer timeframe. The proposal is for the average insured salary of the final 15 years of employment to be used to determine pensions, with that number to be reached by adding 12 months to the timeframe each year until the 15-year target is met.
Also, the retirement age is to be increased to 65, except for professions of a special nature or those that involve dangerous activities, while the ceiling for labor insurance premiums paid by public servants, public-school teachers and private-sector workers is to be raised stepwise to 18 percent.
Other highlights of the proposal include a scheme to allow employees to keep their work years when they switch jobs, including moves between the private sector and the public sector.
“The money that is to be saved by lowering the income replacement rate for public servants and the cancelation of the 18 percent preferential rate will be put into the [Public Service Pension] Fund,” Chen said, adding that starting next year the government is to inject NT$20 billion into the Labor Insurance Fund annually.
Minister Without Portfolio Lin Wan-i (林萬億), who is deputy convener and executive director of the committee, said that as the nation has 13 different pension funds, the government plans two stages to reform such a complicated system.
“We welcome various opinions at Sunday’s conference. They will be factored into the next stage,” Lin said.
Asked to comment on a large-scale demonstration in front of the Presidential Office Building planned for Sunday by civil servants, Chen said that given falling temperatures, it would be better for opponents of the plans to send representatives to the conference, where their voices would be better heard.